FIREFIGHTERS in Carlisle are appealing for people to avoid starting unnecessary - and potentially dangerous - fires in the open air.

They spoke out after being called to two unrelated blazes - one a bonfire started by teenagers on land near the Sands Centre and the other at Brisco Road, to the south of Carlisle.

That fire affected a 70-metre stretch of hedge row. Fencing and hedge were alight, the fire spreading rapidly due to a breeze.

The fire damaged the fence which will now have to be replaced by the landowner.

Then at around 3.30pm, the Carlisle west crew were called to the rear the Sands to help police put out a bonfire lit by teenagers.

"We have seen a huge increase in deliberate fires in the open over the last month across the county," said a spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.

"When dealing with these types of fires, they stop us being available for possibly more serious incidents such as property fires and road traffic accidents and cause longer response times when our colleagues from neighbouring stations respond."

The firefighters spoke to the teenagers involved, explaining why such fires - which can easily spread in dry conditions - can lead to a stretching of precious resources.

The fire near to the Sands Centre was quickly put out but the Brisco Road hedge fire occupied the fire crew for more than an hour.

Last month, the county's fire service tackled a major grass fire at Whinlatter Forest. The blaze - covering 500 sq metres - was brought under control by nine fire crews and a helicopter.

The cause of the blaze was not identified.